Withdrawal Symptoms for Different Substances

Withdrawal is a reaction that occurs in the body when a person stops or reduces the amount of a substance they are using after a period of use. The type of symptoms and length of withdrawal varies depending on the substance. Withdrawal from certain substances can also carry a risk of medical complications.1

This article will cover the specific withdrawal symptoms for different drugs, how long drug withdrawal lasts, and provide information on how to safely detox from drugs.

What Causes Drug Withdrawal?

The drug withdrawal process is caused by a physical dependence on a substance. It is nearly impossible to talk about withdrawal without explaining the concept of dependence.

Dependence is a physiological adaptation of the body to a substance, wherein the body becomes so used to the drug being present in the system that when the individual cuts back on their use or quits, withdrawal symptoms emerge. With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively drink or use drugs to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms.2

When substance use stops or is reduced abruptly, the person may develop physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms as they adjust to not having the substance, or the same amount of the substance, in the body.2

The symptoms of drug withdrawal can range from mildly uncomfortable to dangerous depending on the specific substance.1

How Long Does Drug Withdrawal Last?

Acute drug withdrawal symptoms can last a few days to weeks depending on the specific substance. In some cases, these symptoms may resolve, and a person may feel better.3

Other people may develop protracted or prolonged withdrawal symptoms that can last weeks or even months. These symptoms are typically milder than acute withdrawal symptoms but persist for a longer period.3 

Drug Withdrawal by Substance

The duration and symptoms of withdrawal for different drugs vary. Certain substances may cause mild or no withdrawal, while other substances may cause more severe withdrawal symptoms that can lead to medical complications.1

CNS Depressants: Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

CNS depressants are prescription medications used to treat conditions like anxiety and sleep disorders and work by depressing your central nervous system, hence the name. They include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and sleeping medications like zolpidem (Ambien). Common benzodiazepines include:4

  • Alprazolam (Xanax).
  • Lorazepam (Ativan).
  • Diazepam (Valium).

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can last 1 to 4 weeks, but gradually tapering off these medications may cause withdrawal symptoms to persist for up to five weeks.3

Withdrawal from CNS depressant medications can be dangerous and even life threatening. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that people coming off these medications do so under the supervision of a medical professional or in a detox facility.1,5

Symptoms of CNS depressant withdrawal include:5

  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Cravings.
  • Shaking.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sweating.
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Seizures.

Stimulant Drug Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

Stimulant drugs include cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as prescription stimulants like amphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin).4

Withdrawal from stimulants typically lasts one to two weeks.3 Although medical complications during stimulant withdrawal are rare, they can occur. One of the potentially life-threatening risks of withdrawal from this type of drug is profound dysphoria (negative feelings and thoughts, depression). Should this arise during detox, it can be treated.1

Symptoms of stimulant withdrawal include:1

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Paranoid thoughts.
  • Increase in appetite.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns.
  • Low energy.
  • Cravings.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Lethargy.

Hallucinogen Drug Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

Hallucinogen drugs are known to produce hallucinations and alter a person’s sense of reality.6 These substances include:

  • LSD.
  • Psilocybin.
  • Peyote.
  • DMT.
  • Ayahuasca.

Hallucinogens are not known to cause withdrawal symptoms. However, they can cause residual effects like flashbacks, anxiety, and cognitive deficits that may persist long after a person last used hallucinogens.1

Hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD) is a rare condition that can develop in hallucinogen users.7 Symptoms include:7,8

  • Visual disturbances, like hallucinations and halos.
  • Depersonalization.
  • Derealization.

The condition may develop after just one use. People with a history of psychological issues are at greater risk of developing HPPD. Medications may help alleviate the symptoms of this condition.8

Dissociative Drug Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

Like hallucinogens, dissociative drugs produce hallucinations and a sense of detachment from one’s body.6 Dissociative drugs include:6

  • PCP.
  • Ketamine.
  • DXM (Dextromethorphan).
  • Salvia divinorum.

Many dissociative drugs have not been found to cause withdrawal symptoms, but depending on the level of use, PCP withdrawal may occur.6 There is no definitive timeline for this withdrawal.

Symptoms of PCP withdrawal include:4,6

  • Headaches.
  • Cravings.
  • Sweating.
  • Depression.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Tiredness.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

Opioids include heroin and prescription painkillers like fentanyl, methadone, hydrocodone (Vicodin), and oxycodone (Oxycontin).4 Symptoms of opioid withdrawal typically last 4 to 10 days, but methadone withdrawal symptoms may last 3 weeks or longer.1,3

Opioid withdrawal can be very uncomfortable but is usually not life-threatening. However, in some cases, medical complications can arise.1

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:1,7

  • Stomach cramps.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sweating.
  • Muscle and bone pain.
  • Body aches.
  • Anxiety.
  • Fever.
  • Insomnia.
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.

How to Withdraw Safely From Drugs

Medical detox is a type of treatment that helps people safely and comfortably go through the withdrawal process. It focuses on evaluating and stabilizing drug withdrawal symptoms and preparing a person to transition to the next step in their treatment and recovery.1

The benefits of medical detox include a reduced likelihood of adverse withdrawal reactions and discomfort.1,2

Medical detox often takes place in an inpatient facility, where a person stays for several days until their withdrawal symptoms are stabilized. During this time, medical professionals on staff closely monitor and treat withdrawal symptoms with medications in combination with therapy and support groups.1

Inpatient detox treatment offers an added level of support and supervision that can help prevent patients from relapsing. This may be especially helpful for certain drugs associated with particularly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.1

Outpatient medical detox programs are also available. These programs allow a person to live at home while attending treatment at a rehab facility during the day.

Get Treatment for Drug Withdrawal at Laguna

Laguna Treatment Hospital is an inpatient rehab facility in Orange County, California that offers different types of addiction treatment, including a medically supervised drug detox. The medical detox program at Laguna Treatment Hospital is a licensed chemical dependency recovery hospital, which allows patients to receive the highest level of care.

When you are admitted to medical detox at Laguna Treatment Hospital, you will first meet with a clinician for a biopsychosocial intake. The clinician will evaluate your substance use history and its impact on your physical, mental, and social health. From there, you will work with the treatment team to develop a customized treatment plan that meets your needs.

Depending on what substance(s) you have been using, your treatment plan may include medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms. You will also be encouraged to rest and participate in therapy sessions and groups once you are able.

Detox is typically the first step in the treatment process. After detox is complete, many people transition to another level of care, such as residential treatment. During your time in detox, you and your care team will create an aftercare plan so that you can continue your recovery once detox is over.

To learn more or start the treatment admissions process, call us at . You can also verify your insurance coverage by completing the confidential . We will advise you of your insurance coverage for addiction treatment and any out-of-pocket costs.

Drug withdrawal can be a difficult process, but medical detox can help manage it. Reach out today to learn more about how Laguna’s medical detox for drugs and alcohol can help you take the first step toward your recovery.

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